Andrew Fountain - Bringing Heaven down into Family & Relationships

Sermon notes - Bringing Heaven down into Family & Relationships

0. The Story so far

  • There are some damaging errors creeping into the churches in this area
  • Instead of answering them 1 by 1, Paul’s responds by making sure they understand the truth
  • He gives a beautifully compact and exquisitely constructed presentation of Jesus and salvation
  • He wrote it for more than just the Colossians —at the end he says “pass the letter on”.

Tree and Roots

  • The first half is the roots
    • Comes together in the trunk
    • and the second half spreads out and brings fruit






2:8–19 Fulness: Union with Jesus, victory through him

1:24–2:7 Development: treasure hidden, now revealed

1:9b-23 Essence: Jesus, high over all, has made a new creation

1:1–9a Foundation: Truth is what brings fruit and power

  • Two weeks ago I spoke about Union with Christ

There is no truth that has such ability
to give us joy, strength and victory,
and to produce the finest fruit in our lives,
as that of being united with Jesus Christ.

If we really grasp this truth,
really get it,
it will transform us.

  • The second half of the book spreads out from this truth like ripples in a pond:

Ripples in a pond

Ripples in a pond

The Passage

1. Wives and Husbands

  • If you’re not married, you needn’t switch off for this bit
    • You may know someone who is married and you need to put them right
    • But actually we’re going to see that the principle applies to all of us and in every relationship we have.
    • Paul has just picked out six sample relationships, but I’ll show how it relates to all of them.
  • This is a contentious subject today
    • The problem is that there seems on the surface to be two contradictory teachings in the N.T.

Galatians 3:28

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

  • It seems to be saying that all distinctions are obliterated in Christ
  • There is a contrast between the O.T. where women or gentiles were not allowed into the inner court of the temple
    • and the N.T. where the dividing walls are broken down
    • The gifts of the Spirit, such as prophecy and tongues, came on men and women indiscriminately.
      • [Acts 21:9]—Philip had four daughters who prophesied
    • Every single believer has gifts of the Spirit and functions as part of the body
      • Not a male version of the Spirit and a female version...
    • The New Covenant raises us all up to the same level, and we all come to God directly
    • Jesus himself honoured women in a way that was culturally shocking, like talking to the Samaritan woman
    • Yet on the other hand there are teachings that indicate some sort of difference, such as in

1 Corinthians 11:3

“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.”

  • and then there is this passage here.
  • So what is going on here?
    • One approach is to use this passage as an excuse for subjugating women
      • Unfortunately this has been done in many cultures during much of history
      • As we’ll see, this is not what the Bible is teaching
    • A second approach is to say that this is cultural, and Paul is giving them rules within their culture
      • Some of the commands are clearly cultural (holy kiss)
      • But once you open that gate, it’s very hard to close it
        • sex outside marriage, or even marriage itself
      • Also, you have to see what the command is built on (e.g. holy kiss)
        • if there is an underlying concept that can be transferred to our culture
        • or if the context grounds the command in something outside culture
    • The third approach is to carefully look at what it is really saying
    • I said this was an apparent conflict
  • I think there are two things we need to understand to resolve this conflict
  1. We need to understand exactly what the word “submit” means here
    • It is a fundamentally different word to the one in v20 (children) and v.22 (bondservants)
    • It means to voluntarily put yourself in a position where you are under someone’s leadership
    • What really opens up this word is how it is used in 1 Cor 15:28

1 Corinthians 15:28

  1. When all things are subjected to [the Father],
    then the Son himself will also be subjected to him
    who put all things in subjection under him,
    that God may be all in all.
  • So Jesus himself is voluntarily placing himself under the leadership of the Father as part of the great plan of salvation
  1. This brings us to the second point to understand—Jesus is equal to the father in every way
    • so this submission is not about value or identity
      • it is a temporary fitting-in with God’s purposes (no idea how this works out in heaven)
    • that is why the word “fitting” is used (appropriate to God’s plan)
    • It is not about “who we are” but about reflecting God’s plan
    • It is not in any way a slavish relationship
    • A board of directors all have a vote, but they elect a chairman, who has a casting vote
  • Let us be practical
    • Marriage is a partnership
  • Everything should be talked through, and every decision should be a joint decision
    • It can be particularly hard if your parents were not good role models of doing this
  • You are a unit, not two separate people, so behave like that
    • e.g. I wouldn’t have brought us to Canada if Anne was not 100% behind it!
    • I don’t say I want to go, you don’t but I’m going to have the casting vote and we’ll go.
      • We only move in agreement. We behave as a unit
  • A few years ago we had the roof replaced and she asked me which out of 3 colours I preferred
    • It quickly became apparent that I didn’t have a real choice!
    • But in that domain, I didn’t feel strongly so I was quite happy for her to choose
    • We have different domains of expertise (replace her food mixer)
      • But getting a car to replace our current vehicle is totally joint.
  • In many areas she is very happy to let me make the decisions
  • It is extremely rare that I use a “casting vote” to break deadlock between us.
  • Before we got married, some family members joked that they were interested to see how our marriage would work out
    • because we are both so strong-willed
      • They said they wanted to see what would happen when the “irresistible force met the immovable object’
      • but actually, it is extremely rare that we have anything even resembling a argument.
    • To a large degree that’s because we have very similar likes and dislikes, and more important we both value the Kingdom above everything.
      • But even if you are very different, you can still honour one another

Now what about husbands?

  • The love here is agapao

Three kinds of love

Three kinds of love

  • Three kinds of love (like concentric circles)
    1. agapao love is love that doesn’t require anything in return
      • e.g. feeding a homeless person—we don’t normally do it to get something out of it
    2. phileo love enjoys the person
      • e.g. hanging out with a friend, or a group of friends
    3. erao love is sexual desire
      • quite appropriate between husband and wife
  • Now which kind of love should exist between husband and wife?
    • all 3!
  • So why does Paul only command the first, agapao
    • partly because you actually can’t command the other two!
      • But you can make a decision, that doesn’t depend on feelings, to love that person with a agapao love
    • but mainly because you need the outer love before the inner love can flourish
  • For what this means, we cannot do better than to go to the parallel passage in

Ephesians 5:21–33

  1. submitting to one another out of allegiance to Christ.
  2. Wives … to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
  3.   For the husband is the head of the wife
      even as Christ is the head of the church,
        he is saviour of the body
  4.   But as the church submits to Christ,
    so also should wives … to their husbands in everything.
  5. Husbands, love your wives,
      as Christ loved the church
        and gave himself up for her,
  6.       that he might make her holy,
          cleansing her by the washing of water in the word,
  7.       that he might present to himself the church,
          in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,
          that she might be holy and without blemish.
  8.   In the same way husbands should love their own wives
          as their own bodies.
        He who loves his own wife loves himself.
  9.     For no one ever hated his own flesh,
          but nourishes and cherishes it,
          just as Christ does the church,
  10.       because we are members of his body.
  11.   “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother
        and hold fast to his wife,
        and the two shall become one flesh.”
  12.   This mystery is profound,
        and I speak with reference to Christ and the church.
  13.   However you, each one of you should so love his own wife as himself,
        and the wife should respect her husband.

NET Bible

  • This parallel is a bit much, don’t you think guys?
    • It means a cost on a physical level
    • It means being sensitive and sacrificial
    • It means sometimes missing out on what you want to do for the sake of the other person
  • We all look after what is important to us
    • your car, your career, your house, your interests, your finances
    • your relationship with your wife is the most valuable thing you have
    • we might “cherish” a car by carefully polishing it and giving attention to problems
      • we cherish the relationship with our wives in a similar way, with care and sensitivity
  • the word “mean” literally means “unpleasant & nasty” (bitter sounds like an emotion, but means forcing a bitter taste on them)
    • I know a husband who can sometimes speak so crossly to his wife, it is almost a “verbal wife-beating”
  • What if there are problems?
    • If you have the most wonderful wife in the world, it’s easy to love them
    • If you have an incredibly wise and capable husband, it’s easy to submit
      • But what if they are a jerk?
  • Larry Crabb: Wedding vows story

Wedding Vows

Wedding Vows

  • what are people really promising? (especially if they don’t know Christ)
    • Harsh and mean husband—should you still submit?
    • Contentious and shrill wife—should you still love her?
      • If you only follow this passage when it’s easy, you’re not really following it!
  • The command doesn’t say “Love your wife and then she’ll love you back and it will feel good”
    • If that is your motive, then ultimately you are manipulative
    • Only when you love her unconditionally, irrespective of her response, are you letting her response out of free will
  • What if the husband beats his wife?
    • She should not allow it to continue
    • It may well mean reporting him to the authorities
    • It may mean separating from him if he won’t change
  • What if the husband is not a believer and orders his wife not to go to church?
    • There is a conflict between God’s commands and the husbands
    • She should not be provocative, but ultimately she cannot keep away from God’s people
      • But there may well need to be a lot of sensitivity
    • Many times love and wisdom can win a husband or wife around
  • But ultimately your spouse may leave you:

1 Corinthians 7:15

“But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.”

  • I believe that desertion is a legitimate ground for divorce, although of course it is very much a last resort when everything else has failed.
  • One the other hand, what men really value is respect from their wives
    • some women are always badmouthing their husbands, in a jokey way
    • Even if it is hard to respect an unbelieving husband
      • sometimes respecting them will actually make them start to live more responsibly!

2. Children and Parents

  • Notice that children are addressed as part of the congregation here!
    • You can imagine this letter from Paul arriving in Colosse
    • It is read out on a Sunday Morning in church
  • Paul doesn’t say “when the kids get back from their kids’ church, tell them this...”
    • of course we do need to have kids’ church,
    • but Paul is elevating them to responsible members of the church
  • The word here is referring to pre-adults
    • Some people teach that you have to obey “your parents in everything” till the day you die (or they do)
    • But it is clear from Galatians that in those days there was a radical change when the child came of age
    • People still need to honour their parents, of course
  • “crushed in spirit” literally no-spirit —it has been crushed out of them
    • Have you ever met children like that who have been treated so harshly they have no spirit in them
    • I was at a boys camp in Canada (mostly from non-Christian homes) where I was asked to speak on the subject of anxiety
      • I did a questionnaire—what are you most afraid of
      • the most common answer was their parents
  • Men come of pretty negatively here—tend to be mean to their wives and provoke their children!
    • “Fatherless generation” (either absent or a bad representation of fatherhood)
    • Makes it hard to relate to God as Father
  • The plural word can sometimes mean parent (Heb 11:23 Moses was hidden by his “fathers” = parents)
    • So this could equally apply to mothers

3. Bondservants and Masters

  • leave till next time

The Two Worlds

  • How does this relate to the rest of the book?
    • We can feel that because we are now a new creation, living in a spiritual dimension
    • that we don’t have responsibilities in this world

The Two Worlds

The Two Worlds

  • The Two Worlds
    • You get from here to hear by trusting in Jesus...
    • I heard someone say that they didn’t need to pay back a debt their owed to their mother because Jesus had paid all their debts
    • Do wives who are free in Christ still need to submit to husbands,
      • or children to parents?
    • But we are still actually living in this world!
  • Look at how often “in the Lord” appears in the passage
    • (I have translated it Master in the second part for reasons I will explain next time!)
      • But it means the same as “in Christ” —now are you beginning to see?
    • The only motivation that Paul gives for living in the right way down below is that we also exist “in Christ”
    • When Jesus is in all our relationships, we are actually bringing a touch of the age to come into this age
      • a bit of heaven come down
    • Outsiders see a community that is living by the rules of a different Kingdom
      • That has Christ permeating everything

Mutual Submission

  • Paul has selected six relationships here, but the same principle applies to all
    • We submit our self-interests to others
  • Christ on the cross, revealing what pleases the Father
    • When we put the interests of others before our own, then we show the life of Jesus in us
  • We cannot actually live this way without him being in us!
  • Let’s end by looking back at that Ephesians passage and praising Jesus for what he has done in setting us an example!
    • Let’s get our eyes fixed on Jesus as a motivation and read Eph 5:25–30 together:

Ephesians 5:21–33

Updated on 2016-11-14 by Andrew Fountain